MANKATO — Mankato developer Mike Drummer has long suffered a condition in which his calf muscle twitches.
"It's 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So I'd get bad cramps or charlie horses every day, which is basically a seizure."
He recently turned to a hemp extract — CBD (cannabidiol) oil — which has been approved by the FDA for treating seizures.
"I use it daily. I haven't had one cramp since I started using it three months ago."
Drummer said he hopes the oil may reduce or eliminate the twitching as well, but so far it hasn't.
Matt Little, too, is a fan of the oil that has become the rage across the country with fans saying it can help with everything from reducing anxiety to treating chronic pain.
Little has long dealt with chronic pain and treated it with over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription pain medicine. When he started putting a few drops of CBD oil under his tongue, his pain was greatly reduced.
"I don't have to take opioids or other stuff. It works great and it's safe," said Little, who also started a hemp-growing operation in Waseca under a state pilot program that aims to expand industrial hemp production. He hopes to someday be producing oil.
CBD kiosk open
Sara Kietzer, who opened a kiosk at River Hills Mall where she sells CBD supplements, began using them last spring to help with chronic fatigue and neck, knee and foot pain.
"I had had a sleep study and countless other tests to check my thyroid and everything was normal, yet I still battled terrible fatigue. Within three days of using the CBD supplements, I noticed marked improvement in my energy levels."
Her daughter, she said, also benefits from the hemp supplements. She was born with generalized vascular and lymphatic abnormalities and has a swollen right foot and painful, inoperable mass in her abdomen.
Kietzer said doctors tried various medicines to no avail. "After one week of using the (CBD) oil, she no longer complained of belly pain and the swelling in her foot went down significantly within about three weeks."
CBD supplements have long been used for treating a variety of ailments in both humans and in animals and research has been ongoing for decades.
Kietzer said that she advises customers to speak with their physician about using CBD or any other supplement. But she said CBD has virtually no side effects, is not addictive and is non toxic.
While fans claim many health benefits from using CBD, medical experts generally say there isn't solid evidence for many of the claims.
WebMD says that CBD is being produced without any regulation, resulting in products that vary widely in quality, according to Marcel Bonn-Miller, an adjunct assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Now that hemp has become legal it's likely federal and state agencies will begin adding more regulation to the growth and production of hemp and its byproducts.
Medical researchers say evidence is high that CBD helps in epilepsy and they say that there is fairly strong evidence of its anti-inflammatory benefits. They say many of the studies showing successes of CBD have been done on animals but not enough studies have been done on humans. With the legalization of hemp and the increased use of CBD oil, more human trials are likely.
While people use it for a variety of ailments, many also use it like other supplements, to maintain health. "It's not just for the unwell. As a supplement, it is very broad based and effective in supporting a healthy system," Kietzer said.
The products she sells are pharmaceutical grade, 100 percent free of THC — the element in cannabis that gives people a high — and is from organically grown hemp in Colorado.
Kietzer said the burgeoning CBD market has questionable sellers. "They can be mislabeled or even potentially dangerous." She said CBD products sold by some people can contain small amounts of THC, which could potentially trigger a positive drug test for someone who is tested as part of a job requirement.
Research has shown dosages of 10-50 mg per day are usually effective. Kietzer said dosage amounts depend on the person's system and severity of what they're treating, but many people end up at about 25 mg. She said it cost about $30 to $100 per month for a person to use CBD oil.
"There is more inexpensive stuff out there, but you really don't know what you are getting," said Keitzer, who spent time researching the growing and manufacturing processes for her source of CBD oil.
Legal issues remain
In recent years, everything to do with the cannabis plant, from marijuana to hemp-related products, has been in a legal morass as states began legalizing pot for medicine and recreation and as more states tried to reestablish hemp as an agricultural product.
Even under state sponsorship, hemp growing operations such as Little's weren't able to get bank loans, or even open a business bank account. Although the hemp they grow doesn't have the THC that gives people a buzz, banks feared they could run into trouble with federal drug laws that often clashed with state laws regarding cannabis plants.
But with the recent passage of the farm bill by Congress hemp is now legal nationwide. Still, there remains uncertainty exactly how the FDA will handle CBD oil, which it considers a drug that falls under its regulation.
Brightfield Group, a cannabis market analyst firm, said the legalization could propel the hemp industry to reach $22 billion by 2022.
The legalization also means pharmaceutical companies and other large scale companies are likely to start rolling out hemp products, likely bringing down prices.